Russell Maltz |Breaking Blue
Russell Maltz, Blue Stack Veil #223
polyurethane and pigment wire glass plates (4) stacked on an aluminum shelf angle
October 20 - December 2
Opening Reception October 20, 6-8 pm
River House Arts is honored to present Russell Maltz|Breaking Blue, featuring a selection of recent works by one of today's most insightful and innovative artists. Russell Maltz has been challenging our understanding of the world for more than 40 years both here and abroad, building a formidable reputation through residencies and exhibitions in Europe, South America, and the United States. At times his work has been called Concrete Art, Post-minimalist, Process Art, or Conceptual. In terms of history, it is perhaps most indebted to some unexpected marriage of Land Art and Nouveau Realisme. The truth is, his work resolutely resists categories. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Maltz has spent his career in the heart of New York City’s art community. In the mid-1970s, he worked as a carpenter and house painter renovating the studios and lofts of SoHo. Today he continues to labor in this fashion, making work from everyday materials, the kind of stuff you find at a building supplier or at a worksite. It's hard to miss the embedded commentaries in Maltz's work. Commentaries on consumer culture; “high” culture; privilege and accessibility; most directly commentaries on class and status. There are metaphors and allusions in abundance. One direct read suggests construction materials as a stand-in for the laborer; expected to submit, to be subsumed into a grander body, to disappear, mere fodder – yet pulled forward and transformed, allowed beauty and validation. In this moment of organized labor's resurgence and culture wars, this read is all the more present. Maltz is a construction worker with a keen eye and elegant sensibility. His work interrupts us. His is a practice of arrangement and curation, but it is more profoundly, a practice of seeing. His visual vocabulary - this blue, an incidental shape, this shadow, this surface - are the by-products of those materials meant to remain invisible. In calling our attention to them, Maltz authors a kind of poetry. He moves us through a network of connections, jolting the system, interrupting the chatter of the interior dialogue to suggest newly unconsidered possibilities, not the least of which is the insistence on experience, … an explicit command to “be here now.” His is a profound proposal of possibility: What would the world be if we shifted how we go about constructing our realities? Russell Maltz’s exhibitions have been reviewed in The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, and the Village Voice among numerous other publications. To date he’s had two major retrospectives, in Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken in Germany in 2017 and at Minus Space in Brooklyn in 2022. His work is included in the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Fogg Art Museum/Harvard University Art Museums, Museum Moderner Kunst , and the Gallery of Western Australia as well as in private collections across the globe.
Although our material vocabularies manifest from different vernacular sources, we share a powerful interest in abstracting the ordinary and the overlooked. A rigorous assessment of form is at the core of Russell’s work where his deployment of construction materials speaks to the aesthetic and social economies of built space while at the same time articulating the rhythm of material movement on a jobsite or within the global supply chain.
His layered “paintings” are assemblages, which lend themselves to numerous readings and associations. His cardboard pieces recall some of Rauchenberg’s warm and affecting shirt-box constructions while Maltz’s hanging sheets of glass continually re-creating themselves with their sharp edges and shadows, demonstrate the alternately dramatic and subtle effects of art existing between dimensions—that is, two and three.
Barbara A Macadam
Maltz confronts the premises of the Duchampian readymade first by questioning what constitutes an object. Maltz’s material of choice is lumber, specifically plywood, but he also deploys plexiglass, cinder blocks, etc. The material is notably in a transitional state—either to be used, or recycled, or no longer in use, and it questions the idea of the “made” in the readymade. Maltz’s project is to make something but still deny the fruit of his efforts a description; his process is also calibrated to reject bourgeois definitions of art—he stacks, piles, and arranges objects but refuses to force them into a state of permanent association.